Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Afghans’ Expectations of the Peace Talks

After reaching agreement over the guiding principles, the government and the Taliban negotiating teams enter more serious and detailed talks. But, the talks are still held behind closed doors, which is concerning Afghan ordinary people. The main issues – including the future system, women’s rights, constitutional principles, and the achievements of the last two decades – will be discussed after the agreement over the procedural rule.
Challenges and concerns continue amid the ongoing peace talks in the public air. Afghan negotiating team urges for inclusion of ceasefire in the agenda since peace and stability are the main objectives of the talks. Public concern lingers on with the escalated insurgency leading to high civilian casualties. The Taliban seek to strengthen their negotiating hand through expanding areas under their control and carrying out indiscriminate attacks. The spike in violence is creating an extremely fraught environment and adding to the uncertainty that clouds the peace talks. However, as the two sides reached an agreement over procedures and terms of reference, the next phase of talks is expected to focus on the reduction of violence – crucial to create an atmosphere of trust if the Taliban really prove their genuine intention in the talks.
Inclusion of ceasefire in the agenda is the main focus of the government’s negotiating team. “A ceasefire upon which the Afghan government insists and the establishment of an Islamic system that the Taliban urge could be there [at the talks],” a former Taliban commander, Sayed Akbar Agha is cited as saying.
Earlier, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Doha and met with the Taliban’s chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar aimed at accelerating the negotiations following the Pentagon announcement of troop drawdown.
Trump has drastically accelerated the timeline of the troop pullout announcing a further reduction of troop levels in Afghanistan to about 2,500. The move has rattled NATO allies and angered Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill, who warn that the move could destabilize the country and undercut Washington’s leverage in the peace talks – leaving a Biden administration with an even more precarious situation in the country.
Political analysts believe that the incoming administration of Joe Biden is unlikely to change course on the military reduction mainly as this had now gone so far ahead. Furthermore, Biden has in the past did not support continued military engagement in Afghanistan as instead urged an end to “forever wars”.
But Afghans are apprehensive about the Trump administration’s hasty troop drawdown fearing that the Taliban will be emboldened and continued their intensified attacks. Meanwhile, the current uptick in violence in the country is worrisome for regional and global stakeholders. Regional countries are urge US for responsible withdrawal, which should not move the country to civil unrest or escalated militancy.
The intra Afghan dialogue should make enough progress towards a settlement, including a ceasefire, before international forces leave Afghanistan and global interest wanes.
Overall, the Trump administration still pushes the two sides to reach an agreement as US Special Representative for Afghanistan’s Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad started his travel trying to achieve regional consensus over the talks.
Afghans’ expectations of the talks are ceasefire and reduction of violence. In other words, if the talks do not result in peace and stability, they will make no sense for the people of Afghanistan. One of the main concerns of Afghans are that talks are held behind closed doors. Afghans are not aware of the details.  Afghans’ demand the government negotiating team to protect the democratic principles and human rights and freedoms of the public. The achievements as well as sacrifices of the people should not be compromised at the peace table.
The people of Afghanistan demand the Taliban not to further spill the blood of Afghan soldiers and civilians and declare a permanent ceasefire and reduction in violence if they are really genuine in the talks.
Simultaneously, Afghans expect and urge the US not to leave Afghanistan in the lurch. Washington had better make a responsible and condition-based withdrawal so that the achievements within the last two decades should not be undone.
Ultimately, they urge the international community as well as the regional and global stakeholders to support the peace process and use their leverage on the Taliban leadership so that the talks bear the desired result.
The demands of the public are reasonable and effective if they are met. All sides have to fulfill these demands for ensuring peace and stability and pushing the talks to fruition.